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Inside the friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe


Looking at the general consensus of those with a penchant for pop culture, celebrity pairings pull in a fascinating amount of interest, and this is certainly one for the history books. While you’d be hard-pressed to find a person on the planet unfamiliar with the work of either Marilyn Monroe or Ella Fitzgerald, it’s a little-known fact that the two were close friends. 

When Monroe was asked about her favourite singer, she answered automatically, “Well, my very favourite person, and I love her as a person as well as a singer, I think she’s the greatest, and that’s Ella Fitzgerald.” The two consistently supported each other until Monroe passed away at the young age of 36.

The two icons had a lot in common, including unsuccessful first marriages and childhood trauma, which Marilyn Monroe was more open about than Ella Fitzgerald, but likely produced an understanding that deepened their friendship.

The two met in November of 1954, a time when Monroe went to go see Fitzgerald perform in Los Angeles after spending hours listening to her music. Monroe loved listening to her sing and watching her perform, but Fitzgerald had goals beyond playing jazz clubs. She mentioned, “I know I make a lot of money at the jazz clubs I play, but I sure wish I could play at one of those fancy places.”

That’s when Marilyn Monroe decided to step in. When she learned of her friend’s inability to get a slot at Mocambo, a famous L.A. nightclub, she wanted to see what she could do. Even though Fitzgerald would not have been the first African American to perform at the venue, the club’s owner claimed Fitzgerald lacked the glamour to draw crowds, a notion that would be proven wrong soon enough.

However, Monroe proposed a deal: if he hired Fitzgerald, she promised she’d sit at the front of the house every night and bring along other famous faces, something she likely would have done regardless. The deal was made, and Ella Fitzgerald booked a spot that would change her career.

Of course, Ella Fitzgerald sold out the house routinely, proving good on Marilyn’s promise. She even had another week added to her contract. Monroe continued to support Fitzgerald in her career, and the two remained close for years. It’s connections like these that show the power of women uplifting one another—and what good can come from women supporting women in the industry.

However, Monroe’s struggle with addiction drove a wedge in their friendship from time to time, as Fitzgerald kept more of a quiet life and prefered to stay away from drugs and alcohol. Regardless, the connection they had and the support they offered one another truly was a beautiful thing, setting a great example for future generations of women to support one another as friends and peers.

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